Today has been a really full, fun day, and I'd like to share the ins and outs of it with you so that you can enjoy it as well. After I finish this, we're going to go eat banana ice cream and watch a movie! In consequence, this may be one of my shorter posts... :)
Today was a day for birthdays--I'm aware of three that occurred today. But the one that affected us all was the 10th birthday of one of my best scholars, Taua'e (too-WAH-ae). His mother baked an absolutely ENORMOUS cake to share with the entire school; it was lavishly decorated with M&M's and chocolate eggs. Over here, that's the equivalent of having 14-karat gold leaf and red roses covering your hazelnut-mocha-creation. It was a big deal. Kids were talking about it all morning, and the atmosphere was charged with excitement and anticipation.
I helped Joe with the carrying of the cake down to the school office, where it rested until Miss Emi decreed the big event to commence. During it's sojourn in the office, a few M&M's found their way into the mouths of Joe and Tory, who decided that they were too far up or far down the side of the cake. But that was to be expected. Finally the cake was escorted into one of the classrooms, where most of the school was assembled. Everyone sang the traditional song to a beaming Taua'e, after which Miss Hannah efficiently cut the cake and I efficiently distributed it to the waiting crowd. Things were going splendidly--until little Elizabeth, one of my favorite pupils, found the excitement all too much for her sensitive stomach and sent all her cake back up from whence it had come. The poor thing was much embarrassed, but I got her cleaned up and smiling once more, though she didn't want any cake afterwards!
After my health class (the subject this week is the circulatory system), I had a nice long talk with my folks; following that, a nice long talk with Hannah about the conversations I'd just had. Since Pastor Jim had declared it movie night (though that might have to wait if the power doesn't come back on), and no movie night is complete without a big bowl of fluffy popcorn, and we didn’t have any popcorn in the house, Hannah and I were deputized to meander to the store and procure some at any cost (okay, well, at minimum cost, then). Hannah and I were more than happy to go; the car is the only thing with air-conditioning here!
On the way to the store, we saw Miss Sene, the K-3 and K-4 teacher at the school, and her daughter Stella trudging home along the frying pavement. At home, we’re taught NEVER to give rides to strangers; here, it’s rude if you don’t. After all, you’re fortunate enough to have a car! We pulled over and unlocked the car, and they slid in the back seat with many grateful ‘fa’afa’atai’s’. We turned off a side-road, and soon halted near their driveway, saving them about fifteen minutes of walking in the heat.
Hannah drove up and down the hilly roads, careful to stay on her side of the road. Like the British, they drive on the left side of the road here, one reason I’m not getting a temporary license. I have enough to remember as it is! At last Hannah pulled up outside one of the bigger stores in the area. It isn’t the closest, but it does have popcorn and peanut butter, two vital things on our list. As usual, there were many homegrown products sitting outside the store—baskets of taro root, freshly dug with the dirt still clinging to the roots, and Styrofoam cups of ground cocoa.
Inside, the store was unlit and dusky, saving any coolness that happened to leak out of the humming freezers in the back. Most stores here house their wares behind the counter, so that you have to tell the owner everything you want; but in this store everything was laid out Western-style. Hannah and I picked out our list-ful of necessities, then chose some extras for various Civales—a baggie of fresh cherry tomatoes for Miss Emi, and three bottles of soda pop for the boys. I also went ahead and purchased my own lava-lava, selecting the yard of cloth from the many hanging from the rafters of the store. A girl grabbed a long stick and silently hooked down the material for us. Hannah promised me that she would teach me how to tie the lava-lava later.
On our way home, we stopped several places along the side of the road. Ever since I came, I have longed to do that very thing and capture some pictures of the breath-taking tropical scenery, but we were always in a rush; today, it seemed that we had all the time in the world. The gentle sound of the ocean waves and the salty, tangy smell of the sea made me pull Hannah out of the car so that she could enjoy it along with me. The Samoans walking along the side of the road looked at us and giggled, but I didn’t really care if they found our delight in the scenery funny.
Back at the Civale’s house, the guys had been busy making dinner. Pastor Jim apologized for the scanty rations, but Hannah and I found it more than enough—fried rice, interspersed with mushrooms, corn and Spam chunks, and fresh cucumbers laden with Italian dressing. I was simply ravenous, since the only food I’d had was a piece of Taua’e’s cake earlier.
I trotted down the hill to the church after cleaning up my dishes, intent on making some lesson copies for Miss Emi’s class. Before long, however, a face was peering in through the window. It was one of the teen girls, a piano student of Hannah’s, Sesa (SAY-sa). When she’s finished with her lesson, she enjoys coming to the back of the church and chatting with me. Remembering that I had brought my camera, I proposed a photo shoot. The girls here are all lovely, but Sesa is the prettiest, I think. As a friend of mine here observed, she can look like a dirty street urchin, but then she’ll dress up and you’ll think she’s a princess. She’s also extremely photogenic—every pose looked better than the last!
Then she invited me to play volleyball with the gang that meets here for piano lessons. I joined in for a few minutes, but I’m a pretty poor player at the best of times; before long, they were content to let me be the photographer! Fetu, Tasi, and little Lopaki came on down, and I let Fetu take pictures of the game. A little friend named Sena shyly told me that it was her eleventh birthday; when I asked if she were having a party, cake or ice cream, she shook her head. Many children here don’t celebrate their birthdays, and they certainly don’t get gifts. Two birthdays on the same day, but very different ways of treating them!
Now we’re waiting for the power to come on, so we can get on with movie night, with banana ice cream and fresh popcorn! I’m going to go out and look at the stars for a while. With no lights anywhere, what is normally a lovely sight will become breathtaking. The stars fill up the sky like white smoke.
The end of a busy day!
(Post-script: the power did come back on, but too late in the evening to do anything except get a shower and go to bed. We’ll have movie night some other time!)